Bellaire working to solve fire hydrant issues

BELLAIRE – The newly reinstituted volunteer fire department has been through quite a bit in the last two weeks.

At Thursday night’s council meeting, Fire Chief Bill Swoyer stated that the department had 10 alarms since the last council meeting on Aug. 7, three of which were structure fires. Everything went smoothly; however, the department did have problems with one fire hydrant.

Village Administrator Dan Marling has discussed the issue of the hydrants with Swoyer, and he stated that the village is doing as much as they can to solve the problems.

Marling stated that the village has approximately 90 fire hydrants and that these hydrants were last tested in December of 2012. To test a single hydrant requires 750 -1,200 gallons of water per minute, and the test lasts approximately 7 – 10 minutes. At an average of 7,000 gallons per hydrant, it would require more than 630,000 gallons of water to test every hydrant in the village, which is something the village is unable to achieve at the current time due to the problem with the water intake valve, Marling explained.

“There has not been a move in this village that has not been done in conjunction with the EPA, our engineer and everybody else (involved). Basically at that particular time, they said to us, ‘You can’t test fire hydrants right now,’ ” Marling said.

He explained that the village has been unable to test the hydrants since the problem with the intake valve began. “We have not been able to do it,” Marling said. “It’s not because we don’t want to; it’s because we haven’t been able to. We’re trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got to work with.”

In the last couple years, the village has replaced approximately 15 fire hydrants, Marling said, and there are still about 20 that need to be replaced.

However, the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) grant which the village is seeking looks to be a promising endeavor. The grant would allot the village approximately $200,000 in order to establish an emergency supplemental water connection with Belmont County. Marling stated that, although it is not a certainty yet, it appears as though the village will receive the grant.

“The county is working well with us. They’re reviewing the plans for the emergency connection, which as you know will be out in the 149 area coming into West Bellaire,” Marling said. “Again, the county is not taking over our water. The only thing that this is, is what the EPA has required us to do. They want an alternative water source to be able to support the village.” The new connection would only be used in emergency situations.

During Thursday night’s session, council also discussed hiring a full-time officer to the Bellaire Police Department in order to fill a vacancy.

Police Chief Mike Kovalyk stated that the full-time position was vacated in the middle of June, and that filling the position would alleviate some scheduling problems with the department, as many of the part-time officers have other full-time jobs and are only available on a limited basis. He stated that the funding for the officer’s wages is already factored into the budget.

If the village – which still shows approximately a $100,000 deficit in the general fund – does not hire another officer, Treasurer Tom Sable said, it would potentially save about $22,000. However, that would continue to leave the department shorthanded.

“I’m talking dollars and cents, while (Kovalyk) is talking about operations,” said Treasurer Tom Sable. “Somehow we’ve got to come together on this, and (the budget) shows that we can make some progress here.”

Kovalyk also explained that at the beginning of September, the department will be placing another full-time officer on leave for health reasons. Thus, hiring another officer in the meantime would somewhat help to curb future issues with shorthandedness at the department.

“We’re still trying to add additional part-time people to alleviate some of the issues with the schedule as well,” Kovalyk said. “We don’t want to come to a point where we’re compromising not only public safety, but officer safety also.”

Councilman Jerry Fisher stated, “We can’t afford to give them a raise, but I at least think you should put the guys back in there that were in there. We keep cutting it back and back, and we’re not going to have anyone.”

Sable stated that by having more people at the department, it would further reduce overtime hours and thus save the village more money. Currently, the village does not have any applicants to fill the position, but it may begin advertising that there is a position open after the matter is discussed further.

Council also:

  • Heard a report from the Bellaire Chamber of Commerce. The chamber is in need of a new secretary, and will begin trying to fill the position. Additionally, the chamber will be holding a steak fry at the Sons of Italy on October 18 at 6:30 p.m. The chamber also came up with a theme for the Christmas parade – ‘Christmas is for All Ages’. Furthermore, the chamber is seeking old pictures of the village to be used for the upcoming calendar. The chamber also wished to acknowledge the Bellaire Volunteer Fire Department for its services in the last few weeks and stated that the department is holding gun raffles for a 9mm and a 12-guage shotgun. Tickets are $5.

-Acknowledged that the Bellaire Citizens’ Action Group will be holding a community yard sale in the park on September 13. A 20′ x 20′ space is only $10, and there are spots still available.

– Heard from Jim Pokas, who wishes to begin shooting a low-budget, independent film in the village.

-Excused Councilman Josh Meyer from Thursday’s session.

Scott can be reached at jscott@timesleaderonline.com.